Osaka is no stranger to those who knows about Japan. It is one of the famous cities in Japan that offers delights from the past to present. Osaka is a rich blend of past and present with simple and grandeur. You will find tourist attractions like the Himeji Castle, which is one of Japan’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, that stood as a testament of the grandeur past of Osaka’s world of art and history. At the same time, it brings you the best of the current times like shopping, nightlife, good food and entertaining attractions to visit.
If you think that Japan prides itself on its nature, culture and history, then you can be sure that Osaka is the epitome of it, offering many things to do. Since there are so many treasures in Osaka, it would be hard for us to nail down the Top 10 Things to do in Osaka, but nevertheless, enjoy our comprehensive list here to start off your travel planning to Osaka:
Take a walk around Osaka Castle Park
The Castle Park is formally a home of the wife of the 16th-century Japanese ruler Toyotomi Hideyoshi. This park contains the 15-acre of Nishinomaru Garden that is well known as Osaka’s best place to view cherry blossoms, with the towering Osaka Castle serving as a majestic backdrop. The large park is concealed by ancient walls that tower like a castle surrounding a garden. The entrance fee to Osaka Castle Park or 600 yen. A traveler’s tip here is to bring your mosquito repellent as the mosquitoes can be notorious here within the garden. In my personal opinion, just enjoying the castle from the outside is as good enough, if not better, than the inside of the castle.
Admire the oldest shrine – Sumiyoshi Taisha
One of the oldest shrines in Osaka, Sumiyoshi Taisha is the epitome of Japanese architecture style and design. The three shrines are original Japanese architecture styles of the Shinto religion before the influence of Buddhism. At times, there are wedding processions being held here that could be quite an attraction if you are lucky. There is no entrance fee to the shrine and feel free to take your time wandering around the temple grounds, slowly reveling in its beauty.
Give respect to the ancient Shitenno – ji
After the oldest shrine, you have to also visit one of the oldest Buddhist temple in Japan – Shitenno-ji which is founded back in 593. The original torii (shrine gate) is the oldest in the country dating back to 1294. Within the temple grounds, you will find Honbo Teien, a beautiful garden stood among the wide desolate landscape. Also don’t miss checking out the good flea markets outside the temple grounds during the 21st and 22nd of each month that has a good selection of antiques and secondhand items such as old kimonos.
Have a romantic night at Umeda Sky building
The Umeda Sky building is well known for couples to cuddle under the moonlit sky, though it does not mean the lone travellers cannot head there as well for some chill-out. The landscape of the place is inspired by rural surroundings of japan with rainforest and waterfalls. One would have to enter through the Magic Building to get to the sky garden. Traveler’s tip is to come here early in the morning when there is less crowd and the view is not obscured. The view here is amazing stretching far and wide on Japanese architecture in Osaka. For those who comes at night, you will get to cuddle in the love seats provided or have a one of its kind experience in a glow in the dark open-air observatory.
Travel tips: When exiting the subway, walk towards the building and you will see the main road with a set of traffic lights near a covered underground walkway. Cross the road and use the walkway which will lead you to Umeda Sky Building in less than 5 minutes.
Capture the Glico Man at Dotonbori
This huge neon-lighted running man at Dotonbori had curiously became quite a tourist attraction itself. Erected more than 70 years ago, this strangely and slightly off beat with the rest of the modern surrounding lights sign is well loved by local and tourists alike. The 33m Glico Man sign is located at the Ebusu-bashi bridge, nearby Namba Station, Osaka, which is an area famous for being a shopping and entertainment district. Since many people flock here, you can be sure you can do a fair share of people watching or marvel at the many locals who used it as their meeting points for various activities.
Shopping at Shinsekai
Shinsekai is one of the popular place to shop in Osaka, which has the feel of the Japanese bygone era. Here you will find it dotted with statues of Billiken, which is the God of “things as they should be”. Besides shopping, there are many selections of food from street food like deep fried snacks to high-end restaurants like Fugu (blowfish) restaurants. At the top of the mall, there is an observatory called Tsutenkaku tower and a Spa World. Shinsekai is the living proof of the life in Osaka, bustling with the local people going about their day out while the place is teeming with unpretentious shops and stalls. If you wander even further here, you might stumble into the red light district. Here in Shinsekai, you can experience the old world in the modern days of Japan, experiencing the life of the days goes by. To get to Shinsekai, get to the Ebisucho subway station.
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Marvel at the Open Air Museum of Old Japanese Farmhouses
This unique museum in Ryokuchi-koen, Osaka features a collection of traditional Japanese country houses. These houses had been reconstructed with much effort in this open-air museum. The few notable of these houses is the giant gassho-zukuri, a farmhouse from Gifu-ken with steep slanting thatch roof and the farmhouse from Nagano with thatched walls that gives the illusion of wearing a shaggy coat. This museum is most striking during the autumn as the abundant maple leaves turned to golden red. It is well recommended, if you plan only to visit one museum then this is the one! You can also pay a small fee to rent and dress up in traditional Japanese Kimono, and stroll around the “old village” in style and of course take lots of pictures.
Study the architecture of Himeji Castle
Although, not exactly in Osaka, you can quickly access Himeji from Osaka by a 1.5 hours train ride. Himeji Castle is one of the long lists of Japan’s UNESCO World Heritage but rightly so with a stunning white castle sitting on the hilltop of Hyogo Prefecture, and one not to be miss when nearby. The architecture of this castle is one of the finest in Japan, boasting 83 buildings that show the advanced systems from the feudal period. It is known as the Hakuro-jo (white Egret castle) or Shirasagi-jo (white heron castle) to the people as it resembles a great bird about to take flight. It is also well worth just to admire it from outside and if you are there, there are also other things to do. Check out our Himeji – One day trip Itinerary.
Eat Osaka’s best street food – Takoyaki and Okonomiyaki
We asked our hitchhiking hosts for a food tip in Osaka, and she said that we must try Takoyaki and Okonomiyaki here! Here in Osaka, you will find them in their best and authentic form. Takoyaki is a savoury ball-shaped pancake wrapped around octopus chunk that will be doused generously with sweet sauce, mayonnaise, fish flakes and sweated while Okonomiyaki is a Japanese egg pancake that is like an omelette which is overflowing with a plethora of ingredients from chopped meat to seafood to cheese and vegetables. You will find these delights easily in any of the restaurants in Osaka or in one of the many street vendors dotting the city.
With so much more wonders to Osaka, this is our personal shortlisted things to do in Osaka. Many tourists came to Osaka not knowing what to expect, being less futuristic and upbeat than Tokyo and less old-world charm than Kyoto, but soon found themselves delighted by its own charm. You get to enjoy the modernity of Japan city life here without getting bog down by the mad rush of huge Asian cities. There are also many old-world charms left if you know where to look. Overall, Osaka under promises and over delivers. Come here and get a new experience to your Japan trip. What other things do like to do when you are in Osaka?
Where to stay in Osaka
For easy access to other places or doing day trips to Himeji, it is good to stay near the Osaka train station *. A top rated 4 star hotel nearby the station is the Harmonie Embrasse * with large rooms by Japanese standard and impeccable services. Directly just at the station is the Ritz Carlton Osaka *. A mid-range option would be a business hotel, and the nearest good one is trust chain APA Hotel Osaka Higobashi Ekimae *. For more budget options, there is the well-known hostel chain J-Hoppers Osaka Guesthouse or a more indie Osaka Guesthouse HIVE *.
For more central locations, there are really a great number of good accommodations to choose from in Osaka. Try OOKINI Ryokan Apartment * for a ryokan experience in the city with hotel standards. While the most popular hotel here is the Hotel Universal Port *. If you are looking for a capsule experience, then Capsul Hotel Astil Dotonbori * is definitely a good one to try.